Maddie Majerus, Co-President of the Reproductive Justice Club at ASU and Appalachian State University Senior
Before writing this, I had to ask myself, who in the reproductive justice movement inspires me the most? Who do I do my activist work for? Who am I hoping to change the world for? The answer to these questions is simple: for my younger sister, Anne, and all the other children in her generation.
At age fourteen, Anne was participating in photo campaigns for NARAL Pro-Choice NC, bringing her friends to their events, and discussing feminism with her classmates. As a first year student in high school, she proudly has a “Fight Like a GRRRL” sticker on her phone case, and an “I <3 Pro-Choice NC” sticker across her laptop. Anne does not let others tell her what to do or what to think; she holds steadfast in the face of adversity and is not afraid of being disliked for her beliefs. Whenever I am home from college, she tells stories about how her friends at high schools all across the Triangle are calling people out on their sexism, educating others about what is means to be a feminist, and standing up for themselves and each other.
I remember one occasion in particular when I was driving Anne and her friend, Hannah, to the mall so they could buy dresses for their eighth grade dance. They were talking about the dress code for the dance, and how it was unfair that the dress code revolved around what the girls could wear and did not involve the boys at all. Hannah said, “I’m not allowed to wear a strapless dress in case a boy tries to pull it down. Why don’t they just tell the boys not to do that? Its not fair that I’m the one with rules.”
It was such a simple question, but one that I would have never asked when I was their age. Throughout middle school and high school, I blindly accepted my schools’ dress codes that labeled certain clothing for girls “distracting.” I did not think to question why so many of my female classmates were pulled out of class and could not return to the classroom until their parents brought them a change of clothes so that their bra strap was no longer showing, or so the extra half inch of their leg was covered. I never stopped to ask, “Why isn’t this also happening to the boys?”
This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to serve on a panel at the Feminist Majority Foundation’s 11th annual National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA and was blown away by the number of high school students in attendance, coming from all corners of the nation. These young feminists are running social justice clubs in their high schools, helping send children to school in other countries, and doing all they can to educate themselves in order to educate others. As someone who did not become heavily involved with social justice activism until my sophomore year in college, I was and am astounded and humbled by what these young people are doing and the conversations they are having. Their understanding of the issues facing our country and our world surpasses even that of some of my college-age friends.
Seeing the work my little sister, Anne, and her peers do for reproductive justice, feminism, and social justice is truly inspiring. They can’t even vote yet, and they are organizing their communities to effect positive change! It gives me great hope for our future. The next generation of young leaders are going to be quite the force to be reckoned with!